The government's case against Lance Armstrong took an interesting turn this last week, when both parties filed for Summary Judgment in the case against Lance Armstrong and his cycling team, which is a motion for the judge to rule on key points of a lawsuit without the need to take them to trial.
The fallen sports icon is the sole visible defendant in the case, as the lawsuit also involves a defunct company, Tailwind Sports, which was the cycling team’s owner, and a Belgian national, cycling team director Johan Bruyneel, who is not living in the US.
Armstrong finally confessed to having taken performance enhancing drugs in 2013, after a long period of denials.
Whistleblower Floyd Landis Set off the $100 Million False Claims Case
The lawsuit arose from claims by whistleblower Floyd Landis., who was a member of Armstrong’s team. The federal government is looking to recover the amount of $32,267,279.85, which was paid to the cycling team in a sponsorship contract with the U.S. Postal Service.
Under the False Claims Act, the amount could be tripled on account of damages, and the defendants could end up having to pay $100 million.
Armstrong and Government’s Legal Teams Both Argue for Summary Judgement
The government’s Summary Judgment filing claims that the doping is a fact and so are the claims for payment from USPS while the team was in violation of the sponsorship contract.
On the other hand, Armstrong’s lawyers want Summary Judgment based on the notion that the contract was not with Armstrong directly, and he personally never filed claims for payment under the USPS contract.
“Because the factual record is undisputed, the United States respectfully requests that this Court enter an order granting partial summary judgment in its favor,” stated the government in the Summary Judgment filing.
"Armstrong was never a party to those agreements; he did not read or sign them… He never submitted a claim for payment under either sponsorship agreement," Armstrong’s lawyers said in their lengthy Summary Judgment filing.
Because Armstrong’s team won the Tour de France and gave tremendous visibility to USPS as a result, the former cyclist’s attorneys claim that the contract was never breached, and USPS greatly benefitted from it.
According to Armstrong’s legal team, “Although it turns out that Armstrong and other riders on the team used performance enhancing substances and publicly denied doing so, the USPS enjoyed substantial benefits from the sponsorship and never took steps directly to address or prevent the use of performance enhancing substances by team riders. Its assertion of claims for damages against Armstrong alone among the team riders, a decade after the end of the sponsorship, is hypocritical and meritless.”
The fact that USPS benefitted from the contract is undeniable, but so is the fact that Armstrong and his team were in violation of it. It is hard to predict whether either one of the Summary Judgment filings will stand. What is clear is that the controversy will continue for some time.
Armstrong: America’s Most Disliked Athlete
It seems unlikely that the Judge will end the lawsuit as Armstrong’s attorneys have requested, and perhaps the coming battle will not be about Summary Judgments, but rather about the dollar amount at stake.
It is also certain that Armstrong will continue to fight back with all he’s got. “After the dozen previous lawsuits, I'm not in a position to really cut any more checks, so I'm in a position where I have to fight this one out," he said in an interview earlier this year, after federal Judge Christopher R. Cooper dismissed twelve of the claims against him, Tailwind, and Bruyneel.
Whistleblower Floyd Landis Armstrong Teammate
In a 2013 poll by Nielsen/E-poll, Armstrong, whose first public admission of guilt took place on Oprah Winfrey’s show, received the dubious title of “America’s most disliked athlete.” Whistleblower Floyd Landis, who never enjoyed the same popularity as Armstrong, stands to receive a sizable reward if the federal Judge rules in favor of the government.